THE discussion whether to remove certain statues and/or change certain street names that celebrate those people who were involved in the slave trade is taking place throughout the UK. It has taken the loss of life and reassessing historical fact to get to this stage.

Money and power for the wealthy came from those who bought and sold black human beings to work on their plantations. In return they ploughed some of their profits into bricks and mortar in their home cities. All this at the expense of indigenous people they slaughtered. Yet we glorify the British Empire and those who brought it about by raising statues and street names to people who have shamed Scotland and indeed humanity.

The indigenous population of the Highlands were not immune to suffering at the hands of such people looking to acquire even more wealth. Here in the Highlands we have a massive statue of the Duke of Sutherland on the top of Beinn a’Bhragaidh in memory to such a man.

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In early 1996 the local Council Planning Committee refused an application to dismantle the Duke of Sutherland’s statue. During discussion of the issue, it became apparent that a number of the “local” residents of Golspie were of the view that the statue should remain in place. If the people who were cleared from the Sutherland estate had been black and that planning application was being considered today it would have been approved and that statue would rightly be removed.

The first Duke of Sutherland held more titles than Alex Ferguson has won football silverware. He was the second Marquis of Stafford, an MP and one of the richest men in England. His family originated from Yorkshire and married into a wealthy Stafford family of French descent. In due course, the second Marquis married the Ban mhorair Chataibh, the great lady of Sutherland, who was five feet tall and 27 years of age. Her heart was as cold as the sandstone on top of Beinn a’Bhragaidh.

It is interesting to note that after Culloden the Duke of Cumberland and the Duke of Newcastle gave serious consideration to clearing and removing the inhabitants of the Highland glens to the colonies, but this was thought to be unmanageable and unrealistic and the easier option burning their homes, destroying their crops and driving away or killing their cattle was taken. The genocide of the Highlanders was government policy.

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In other words what the Duke of Cumberland could not achieve, the first Duke of Sutherland achieved in the areas he controlled. He was not the first or last Highland laird to clear his people but he was certainly the most successful.

When he died, his wife decided to erect two statues in England and one on top of Beinn a’Bhragaidh to honour the achievements of this man who had made a desert of the land which he had acquired through marriage and by betraying the people whose families had lived on that land for centuries.

The statue was raised in honour of a fiend who betrayed and cleared the people from the land simply for profit and that is why it should come down. At the time of the Clearances Golspie was inhabited mainly by incomers from the south who witnessed at first hand the desperate state of some of the Highlanders who were called to Golspie to hear their fate. While many people in Golspie wished to help, they too were at the mercy of the Duke, unlike the churchmen who chose to betray their flocks – again for profit.

The statue is an affront to the memory of not only the Sutherland Highlanders who were cleared but to all Highlanders who suffered the same fate. Winifred Ewing MEP attended a debate in Golspie in 1995. At that debate the majority of local people did not want the statue removed. Winnie is on record stating that in her view it was like having a statue of Hitler outside Auschwitz.

Bill Clark